A Heartfelt Plea from the Gilbert Public Schools Community

Gilbert Public Schools will hold a *Community Forum* as a public meeting in a half-@$$ed attempt to comply with Arizona statutes that govern *repurposing* a school. Repurposing is a GPS euphemism for closing a junior high school so that Gilbert Classical Academy can have a brand new shiny campus for the elite 1% of GPS students. Below, we feature a heartfelt plea from the community… the same community that rallied in 2012 to Save Gilbert Junior High from closing.

As if the Governing Board will listen … sheeeeesh. We all know that Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has already made her plan and all this is just window dressing. Who needs to comply with inconvenient things like laws or district policies or common decency? Christina Kishimoto is a woman with a mission — to burnish her *national reputation* at the expense of GPS students, primarily Hispanic students who attend the two neighborhood junior high schools called *Ghetto Schools* by other GPS students and parents. This is all going to work out well for the President of the American Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, wouldn’t you think? <dripping ladle of sarcasm>

Dear Gilbert Public Schools

Please don’t close our school.

You know which one I mean. Don’t close Gilbert Junior High School. You know. The one you tried to close a few years ago. The one with the crummy track and the less-than-desirable locker rooms. The one that had its swimming pool bulldozed over Christmas break last year, to be replaced with a gravel lot.

The one that could use some flowers out front, a coat of paint and a new sign.

You know the school. It’s the one named after the district. It’s tucked inside a walkable community. It serves several neighborhood feeder schools. It’s where a teacher auditioned for NBC’s American Ninja Warrior to show his students they could do anything. It’s where kids actually have a chance to make the team, any team. It’s where students with unique special needs find comfort, security and the specialized attention they require.

Please don’t close it. Please think about the ramifications. Please put yourself in our shoes. If not our shoes, the shoes of the children who go there or will go there.

What if it was your school? In your neighborhood? Where your kids went to school? Where they played in sports, walked younger siblings home from school because their parents were at work, and attended their first, eternally-awkward after school dances.

What would you do if it was your school? What would you do if you knew that closing the school was wrong? If you set emotion aside, analyzed the facts, and still came to the same conclusion?

You’d fight for it. And, that’s what we’re doing.

You are on a mission to find a new campus for Gilbert Classical Academy, a school of choice for accelerated, exceptional students who would place at the top of their graduating classes at any traditional high school. Academically, these kids are the cream of the crop. And, I’m regularly impressed by their achievements and intelligence.

Finding a better campus for these few hundred students was your number-one goal for the 2015–2016 school year, as stated at a public meeting.

Not teacher salaries, not reams of much-needed paper, not funding the previously-unfunded district reading program, not anything related to academics. Finding a campus, for a school that graduates about half of its enrollees, was the top goal.

Now you’ve once again zeroed in on Gilbert Junior High and Mesquite Junior High, two neighborhood campuses in communities with high minority populations and a large number of households that qualify for free and reduced lunch, a measure of a family’s income.

Those campuses are experiencing declining enrollment, you said.

Except, a demographics report—one that you commissioned and received in April of 2015 at a cost of $15,000—states the exact opposite.

The report projects growth at most of the district’s junior high schools before the year 2020. And, Gilbert Junior High is expected to see the largest influx of students. A growth of 41% according to your study. <Letter continues below the image showing significant student increases at GPS schools.>

schoolenrollmentprojections

But that report is old, according to a school board member. It’s going to be redone, the person said.

A $15,000 report from 2015 is old and needs to be redone? Now I not only question the district’s motives but its fiscal discipline. Surely, a district that pushed for and received a bond and override in the fall of 2015 on the perceived reality of diminished services could find another way to spend $15,000. If you’re looking for ideas, our elementary school needs a new copy machine. For starters.

To be fair, the report is outdated. The growth projections don’t include a new multifamily development slated for GJHS boundaries, or other new build projects throughout the district that received permitting after the report was completed. A new report would only show additional growth.

Armed with that information, what would you do if you were me? If you lived in our community? If it was your school?

You would fight. Because it’s wrong. The story you are telling is wrong. The numbers don’t support it.

Note from Westie: we’ll continue this letter in our next post. In the meantime, enjoy a new video from the community advocates for the Gilbert Junior High School Tigers, “What Gilbert Junior High School Gave Me.”   #SAVEGJHS


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